U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo by AP
Text size

The United States does not consider Egypt's Islamist-led government an ally or an enemy, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a television interview.

Asked by the Spanish-language channel Telemundo whether he would consider the current Egyptian regime an ally of the United States, Obama replied: "I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy."

Obama spoke to Telemundo on Wednesday after mobs of demonstrators angry over a film they consider blasphemous to Islam assaulted the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

"I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident. How they respond to, for example, maintaining the peace treaty with Israel. So far, what we’ve seen is that in some cases they’ve said the right things and taken the right steps. In others, how they’ve responded to various events may not be aligned with our interests," Obama said.

"If they take actions that indicate they’re not taking responsibilities, as all other countries do where we have embassies, I think that’s going to be a real big problem."

The attack on the embassy in Cairo coincided with attacks on a U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi that led to the killing of four U.S. diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador.

On Wednesday, Obama spoke both with the Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Libyan President Mohammed Magariaf to discuss the violence against U.S. diplomatic compounds.

In his conversation with Morsi, Obama stressed that his administration expects that Egypt cooperate with the U.S. to secure its diplomatic facilities. According to the White House, Obama also said he "rejects efforts to denigrate Islam," but that there is "no justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities."

Later Thursday, the National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama's interview wasn't meant to send any signal to Egypt.

"'Ally’ is a legal term of art. We don’t have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies. But as the President has said, Egypt is long-standing and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt’s transition to democracy and working with the new government. Just last night the President spoke with President Morsi to review the strategic partnership between the Unites States and Egypt, while making clear our mutual obligations – including the protection of diplomats and diplomatic facilities.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also commented on the video and the violence it sparked, calling the video "disgusting and reprehensible" but maintained that the U.S. "does not stop individual citizens from expressing their views."

Meanwhile on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday condemned the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and called on new leaders in Arab nations on Thursday to recognize their responsibility for the situation on their territories.

"I would like to address the leadership of the new governments in which serious changes have taken place, they should also not forget about their own responsibility for what happens on their territory," Putin said in televised comments in the southern city of Sochi.